Medical

 

RED URINE:

Rabbits urine varies in color from clear to yellow to brown to bright red. This is usually not a cause for alarm UNLESS there are additional signs such as sitting & straining to urinate, loss of appetite or a temperature. When you see red urine, donít panic, just keep your eyes open for other signs that might indicate a problem. The red color will usually be gone in a day or two, but can last for a much longer time. If youíre in doubt, your vet can test to see whether or not there is blood in the urine.

AMOXICILLIN DANGER:

Never let a vet give your rabbit Amoxicillin. (It is an antibiotic and is recognizable as a pink liquid that smells like bubble gum. It is killing a very large percentage of the rabbits that receive it.) All drugs in the penicillin family are bad for your rabbit as they kill the "good" germs in the rabbitís intestines and can cause other organs to malfunction. There are other very effective antibiotics that can be safely given to rabbits, such as Baytril. Occasionally, a rabbit canít tolerate one antibiotic. For instance, they may stop eating or experience diarrhea, and another antibiotic will have to be tried instead.

CEDAR & PINE SHAVINGS:

These are very bad for your rabbit and other pets. "Aromatic hydrocarbons from cedar and pine bedding materials can induce biosynthesis and hepatic microsomal enzymes" which are known to cause liver disease. (Quoted from the US Dept. of Health and Human Services guide for the care of laboratory animals.) Please pass the word to pet shops and others who carry this material for small animals. If they wonít use it for lab animals, we sure donít want it for our house rabbits. Use organic litter for the litter box and put newspaper in the tray if you have a cage for your rabbit.

SPAY/NEUTER:

The House Rabbit Society has had over 850 (as of March 1991) rabbits spayed or neutered with one reported death from anesthesia. Thatís .1%, not 10% or 50% that some veterinarians quote as deaths due to anesthesia. To a knowledgeable vet, a rabbit neuter (male) is relatively simple and quite safe. A rabbit spay (female) can be dangerous and life threatening if improper technique or general anesthesia is used. If the female is over 18 months old, it is recommended that blood tests be done to assess liver and kidney function prior to general anesthesia.

Why Spay/Neuter? 80% of unspayed females (some statistics quote as high as 95%) will get uterine or ovarian cancer between two and five years of age. Preventing cancer by spaying your rabbit will give her the potential to reach her possible life span 8 Ė 10 years of age. Some rabbits, that Iím aware of, have lived to be 16 years old.

Upon reaching sexual maturity the male rabbit will often become a real nuisance. He will fight with other males. He will fall in love with your slippers (both off and on your feet) and will spray you, your slippers and other items that he wishes to make his very own. Neutering has completely stopped that behavior in all of the males that Iíve had altered, although itís probably not a guarantee.

AMPUTATIONS:

Rabbits can live as amputees. You many have to help them off and on the couch, but if an accident or illness causes you to make a decision to amputate or to consider euthanasia, please also consider that they can get along just fine on (for instance) just three legs.

PARAPALEGIC RABBITS:

It does not happen often, but it is not uncommon for a rabbit to break their back. Not everyone can put the time and energy into caring for a paraplegic rabbit, but be aware that it is possible for a paraplegic rabbit to live out itís life with you. If itís an only rabbit, you might even consider getting it an older, quieter rabbit as a friend to help with the grooming. I can put you in touch with other people living with this type of friend.

TEETH:

Rabbits teeth can be misaligned. This condition is known as a malocclusion, which means that their constantly growing teeth do not wear properly. If the misalignment is bad, the teeth will need to be clipped periodically so that the rabbit can eat. One of my rabbitís teeth must be clipped weekly, but it is usually required on once every 2 Ė 4 weeks. Your vet or Rabbit Haven can do this for you or show you how to clip your rabbitís teeth at home. The misalignment of the front teeth can be easily seen. The back teeth usually cannot be seen and the vet may have to anesthetize the rabbit in order to check their molars. One indication that their back teeth may be a problem, is a wet chin that is caused by drooling.

HAIRBALLS:

Rabbits shed their hair every three months. Every second shedding is light, followed three months later by a heavy shedding. This is the largest cause of problems and deaths in rabbits. You MUST brush and comb your rabbit to get the hair off of them when they start to shed. Rabbits groom themselves like cats and will ingest all of the loose hair on themselves and their rabbit companions. They must have a handful of Timothy Hay each and EVERY DAY (do not give the small compressed hay blocks as the fiber is too small and therefore not helpful) as well as plenty of exercise, in order to help the hair that they do ingest to pass through their system. The hay will not eliminate the need for brushing. Rabbits the ingest carpeting and other material may also suffer from the same symptoms.

The first sign of hairballs (or rabbits having an unusual amount of foreign substance in their stomach): Droppings will get smaller and will often be strung together or will have hairs or pieces of carpet fiber showing in the round droppings. As time goes on, the rabbits stomachs will get larger and appear to be quite fat, but when petting or rubbing its back, youíll begin to feel the bones as it looses weight on its way to starving to death.

Another idea is to give your rabbit Petromalt or Laxatone (2 brand names of a cat hairball remedy) once a week when not shedding and then daily or twice daily when they shed. Some rabbits like the taste and will lick it from the container. For other rabbits you can smear it on the top of their paw and they will (usually) lick it off. If this gives your rabbit diarrhea, then donít give it to him.

Treating the first signs of hairballs is controversial, please call if you ever have a problem, but the first thing to do is to get them to eat as much roughage as they will. Hay, tree branches, blackberry vines (stickers and all), etc.

SURGERIES:

Food and water should NOT be removed from a rabbit the evening before surgery! Ignore this direction if given by the front office staff and discuss this with your vet if the instructions come from him/her. Rabbits cannot throw up and possible vomiting is the reason that food is removed from cats and dogs. It is harmful to the rabbit and causes a longer recovery time if food is removed. The rabbit should also be tempted to eat as soon as they are awake to assist with the recovery process.

PARASITES:

Rabbits can get the common dog or cat flea. Be very careful about the products you use to treat the home and yard, as well as the products you use on your rabbit. If the yard is treated, do not allow your rabbit on it for at least a week and then water it thoroughly to wash off any residual chemicals. Use a spray or "bomb" that contains "pyrethrins" and "precor" (methoprene). Flea powders labeled for use on kittens that contain pyrethrins can be used.

A mite that lives on the skin dander of rabbits will cause your rabbit to scratch and if left untreated, will eventually develop thick crusts on their bodies. An injectable drug called Ivermectin can be given twice, two weeks apart, to eliminate this problem. Rabbits can die if the Ivermectin dosage is not correct, so for you home-treatment people, please see your vet for this one.

Ear mites cause rabbits to shake their heads frequently and scratch at their ears. If left untreated, a middle ear infection could develop which can cause a problem with their balance. Ivermectin is again the preferred treatment.

An internal parasite called coccidia can infect the small intestines. Symptoms can be loss of appetite to chronic diarrhea and occasionally death. A rabbit is considered to have diarrhea if the droppings are not firm and round. If the droppings are round but squish when you pick them up, your rabbit has diarrhea. The test for coccidia seems to be the one test that vets routinely perform, but I have yet to have one test positive.

Itís usually unnecessary, but might help your peace of mind to have your newly acquired rabbit tested for the above parasites. But once you have your rabbit, if you keep his home clean, these shouldnít be a problem.

Intestinal blockages/GI stasis (decreased motility):

 Pain (from gas or an underlying condition) or insuffient fibre or water intake may cause GI Stasis. Decreased motility can lead to an impaction of hair/fibres  and food that can become hard (dehydrated) and may not pass through the digestive system. If a rabbit has only eaten or defecated a small amount in the last 12 hours, seems listless or is uninterested in food or has other noticeable behavioural changes, he needs immediate veterinary attention. Sustaining water intake is necessary to prevent dehydration.

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